A Private Affair: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Getting Married at a Private Estate
—by HCTG Staff Writer Linda Watanabe McFerrin
Whether it’s on a faraway tropical island, at a secluded wine country villa or at a seaside manse, weddings at signature private properties top the charts for couples tying the knot—and we’re not just talking about the celebrity set.
When “Friends” and “Joey” star Matt Le Blanc and Melissa McKnight married, they did so at a private estate in Kauai, Hawaii. They exchanged vows in an open tent filled with gardenias and roses on a cliff top overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Kevin Costner wed his ladylove on his 165-acre ranch outside Aspen, and Sandra Bullock and Jesse James tied the knot in a top-secret ceremony held in the wooded grove of a private Solvang ranch, while bagpipers serenaded the star-studded gathering of well-wishers.
The Privacy Factor
According to special events planner Gianna Provenzano, president of GP Events, a company that represents over 4,000 private estates, couples these days are increasingly drawn to unique wedding sites that offer both privacy and an opportunity for maximum personalization. They don’t want to suffer the hotel guest lounging poolside in his Speedo mere yards away from the reception, or vain attempts to add a special spin to the usual “off the rack” décor. “It’s a day when you want everything to be perfect,” says Gianna, whose experience has made her a favorite with location scouts as well as brides. “In an estate setting, you have that kind of control.” (Click here to read Gianna’s article on how to protect yourself when renting a private estate.) Sylvia Schmidt of Locations Unlimited adds, “The privacy factor is also a big draw—at a private estate you can close the gate and have the location all to yourself. It’s almost like home.”
Wedding planner Dolores Walsh, a.k.a. the Godmother of Malibu, who’s been in the business for over 25 years, agrees. But she also believes that the fantasy element exerts tremendous appeal. (One of the properties she manages is a coastal estate that looks like a castle.) She feels that that the grand estate wedding is, in some ways, iconic. “It’s the dream,” she explains, “an event that represents a first taste of the happily-ever-after bliss they aspire to, a first-class ticket to a world of sophistication and style.”
It also comes with a very big price tag—one that tends to swell well beyond the cost of renting the location. “Some people think they can save money by having a wedding at a private estate,” says Marcia Coleman-Joyner of Joyous Occasion, “so, the additional expense often comes as a surprise.” That cost can include everything from insurance to generators to portable restrooms (no, not the construction site kind!), items that you’d never have to worry about at a regular wedding venue.